Potatoes Au Gratin refers to a layered potato casserole with a cheesy cream sauce. "Gratin," a French word, typically refers to a baked dish with a crusty cheese or breadcrumb topping, though cheese versions are favored here in the United States. As the casserole bakes, the cheese forms a crust on top of the potatoes, developing a rich flavor and texture. Cheddar cheese is common ingredient in the dish, though other cheeses can also be used.
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon white ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves only
2 cups whole or 2% milk
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
6 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes, about 7 medium
Smoked paprika, optional
Note: In a hurry to get dinner on the table, place the potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for about 8 minutes. Remove carefully and proceed with recipe. Be mindful that the cooking time has lessened considerably, (total cooking time is now approximately 45 minutes) so watch carefully and test potatoes for doneness with a fork.
Note: You might consider adding a 4.5 ounce can of green chiles for a delightful change-of-pace flavor.
Note: To make it even more over-the-top, add 1 1/2 cups of cubed ham or 4-6 slices of crumbled, cooked bacon.
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